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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – L Is for Lemon

The sour taste of lemons causes this fruit to get the reputation of being acidic. The truth is that, in the body at least, lemons are alkaline and can do a lot to help balance out an acidic body. So while the juice can work well as a cleaner in its acidic state outside of the body, inside it counter acts sugars (which actually create an acidic body state) and can even help to ward off certain types of cancer.

Whether your goal is to lose weight or to detox your system, lemons can be of assistance. They are great for everything from your brain to your bowel. Plus, lemons are versatile and work as a garnish, a dressing, a drink, a dessert, and more! What other health benefits make lemons an indispensable part of a plant based diet?

Some of the many health benefits derived from lemons include:

  • Lemons are great as part of a cleanse. They help the liver to get rid of solvents. Just a little bit of lemon water each morning can help break down uric acid and other toxins in the body.

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  • Do you have a problem with kidney stones, gall stones, or other calcium buildup issues? Lemons break down calcium and can help to keep calcium deposits from forming within the body.
  • Lemons also can destroy many bacterial diseases such as typhoid and malaria. It’s one of the reasons that lemon is used in cleaning products (not just the lovely scent). It performs the same job in the body, helping the immune system to ward off deadly intruders.
  • We all know that carrots are good for vision, but lemons have positive eye effects too. Rutin is the lemon component that can improve eye disorders like diabetic retinopathy.
  • Lemons are full of antioxidants which fight free radicals in the body. In fact, there are 22 different cancer fighting agents found within lemons.
  • The digestive system gets help from lemons as well. Lemons can help to ward off constipation, thus keeping the colon cleaned out. Also, lemons are known for being able to kill certain intestinal parasites.
  • The vitamin C in lemons is not only an antioxidant and a liver cleanser, but it also helps to speed up metabolism. High vitamin C content is what makes lemons useful for weight loss diets.
  • Another little known fact is that lemons are high in potassium. This is a vital mineral for heart health. It helps keep the blood pressure lower by reducing stress. Potassium is also important in counteracting dehydration.

Are you a lemon fan?  What is your favourite way of consuming these wonderful little yellow nutritional powerhouses?

Note of caution – unless lemons are marked as “unwaxed” always wash them in warm water to remove the wax, as you would with any citrus fruit.

Tips:

  • To get the most juice out of them, pop in a microwave for 30-60 secs and then gently roll them on a chopping board or counter top.  Then pierce in the centre and gently squeeze to get some of the juice out, before cutting in half and juicing.
  • Add a few drops of lemon juice to soups etc it helps you cut down on salt
  • Fresh Lemon and Mint with ice is a wonderful refreshing and hydrating drink when its hot
  • Start your day with a glass of warm water and lemon juice to kick-start your body

 

 

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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – K Is for Kale

If you’ve spent any amount of time on a plant based diet or juicing, then you know that kale is a staple for providing the nutritional benefits to have energy on a day to day basis. Kale has all sorts of nicknames that hail it as everything from a vegetarian or vegan’s meat to the nutritional powerhouse of greens.
Whether you are trying to detox or lose weight, kale has what you need. It’s a great immune system booster. Making kale a regular part of your diet can even improve the condition of your skin, nails, and hair. What are the secrets that kale holds which make it the perfect plant for everything from fighting off disease to improving your vision?
Just some of the many benefits of kale include:
• An aid to digestion, kale contains 5 g of dietary fiber per serving. With no fat and only 36 calories per cup, kale is gentle on the digestive tract and will help keep a person regular.
• The letter K stands for kale on our A-Z list, and kale also stands for K, vitamin K that is. Whether you are concerned about clotting properly, fighting off the effects of Alzheimer’s, or want to protect yourself from certain forms of cancer, vitamin K has to be in your nutritional alphabet. Kale is a great source.
• Vitamin A also abounds in kale, giving a huge boost to your eyes, and helping to prevent optical disorders.
• Kale also contains both vitamin D and calcium. It’s a 1-2 punch for healthy teeth and bones, since the vitamin D improves calcium absorption. Plus, vitamin C provides additional benefits for the cartilage and joints.
• Kale gets the nickname beef, but that’s really not fair to the kale. Kale actually has more iron than red meat. Iron helps to fend off anemia, and it also plays a vital role in helping oxygen to get to all parts of the body.
• Omega-3 fatty acids make kale a great food for fighting inflammation. Omega-3 and omega-6 are also vital for the skin, making it appear vibrant by healing from the inside out. Hair and nails also need these fatty acids to thrive.
• Any sort of detox should include kale in some form. It contains both fiber and sulfur. It’s great for the liver and for the colon, detoxing the whole body instead of just one system.

Quick recipe tips, if you have some Kale in the fridge and happen to have made some hummus in your blender, scrape it out, but leave some residue. add some water, lemon juice or vinegar, (apple cider is my preference) and some garlic, salt and pepper, and whizz and you have a delicious creamy dressing for your kale salad).
Pop a few Kale leaves in your smoothie to “beef” it up a bit.

Love it or hate it? Share your thoughts and favourite Kale recipes in the community pages.

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Copyright: west1 / 123RF Stock Photo

The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – J Is for Jerusalem Artichoke

Have you seen them?  These nobbly little bundles of delicious nutyness?  Jerusalem Artichokes are only around for a short season in the UK, but if you can get them, buy them.  They are so delicious and worth the effort needed to prepare them.

You may know Jerusalem artichokes by their alternate or US name, Sunchokes. Don’t confuse these with the artichokes that are prevalent in Italian cuisine. Jerusalem artichokes are a root vegetable and look like a cross between a potato and ginger root.

Also, don’t let the misnomer fool you. Jerusalem artichokes aren’t imported from Israel. In fact, they aren’t imported at all. This starchy vegetable is native to the UK as well as North America. Sunchokes have a delicious earthy and nutty flavor similar to jicama (a European root veggie).

So why should Jerusalem artichokes be in your a-z plant vocabulary? It’s a great way to get the carbs that you need without the fat and cholesterol. And the starch isn’t the only carb in Jerusalem artichokes. There is plenty of dietary fiber too.

Here are some more nutritional benefits of Jerusalem artichokes:

  • This root veggie fights constipation by helping the gut to hang onto moisture. Staying regular cleans toxins from the gut area and may help to prevent certain types of cancer.
  • Anti-oxidant vitamins abound in Jerusalem artichokes. Vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants making this a cancer fighting vegetable. Antioxidants also help reduce inflammation and can reduce the length of time that the common cold lasts.
  • Potassium is a vital mineral for helping the body not to dehydrate as well as for maintaining good heart health. Jerusalem artichokes get you 9% of the potassium that you need in a day with every 100 gram serving.
  • Iron is a mineral that is vital to the circulatory system. It helps in the production of red blood cells and guards against anemia which can cause fatigue and muscle weakness. A serving of sunchokes gets more than 2/5 of what you need in a day. No other tuber or root can match up to that.
  • Other vitamins and minerals in this vegetable include vitamin B, electrolytes, and copper.
  • They can also help you to boost the protein in your diet with 3 grams of protein per serving.
  • Prebiotics help to feed your body’s natural probiotics and keep them healthy. Sunchokes are filled with inulin, a prebiotic which may help your body’s probiotics to thrive, thus benefiting digestion. Don’t confuse inulin for insulin. Jerusalem artichokes do not reduce blood sugar. They may not raise it as much as other carbs, however, because inulin doesn’t metabolize like other carbohydrates. It’s actually an effective sweetener (saccharin) for diabetics.

So now you know how good they are for you, what do you want to do with them?

The first thing is to wash them, just ensure that you get rid of all the dirt.  There is no need to peel them – Life is too short!

Always cook them in acidulated water (just add a few drops of lemon juice) as otherwise they will discolour.

You can use them to make a really silky and delicious nutty soup – it’s the sort of thing that is so good, you could serve it to guests.

You can also just steam them, mash/purée them or roast them.

Let me know if you find them and how you cook them.

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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – I Is for Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg Lettuce

Iceberg lettuce is sort of the black sheep of the lettuce family. It’s one of those most ignored foods, so often taken for granted and stuffed in a bun with a burger to make it “look healthy”.  As a child, it was a staple in our house, along with tomatoes and cucumber for a “British Salad”.  So why does it get honorable mention in our A-Z list? Do we just not have anything else that starts with the letter I?

Actually, iceberg lettuce has plenty of nutrients. It just doesn’t have quite as many as some other forms of lettuce. The fact is though that iceberg lettuce is tasty, and it has a delightful crunch that can be just what you need when you are craving an unhealthy snack.

Take this as an example of the benefits of eating iceberg lettuce. Just 2 cups of iceberg lettuce on a daily basis can help you to get about a third of the vitamin K that you need each day. This vitamin is important for clotting and for bone health, and that’s just one of the benefits of this type of lettuce that gets a bad rap.

Check out these facts about the nutritional benefits of iceberg lettuce:

  • It’s a low calorie food. An entire cup of iceberg lettuce only has 11 calories.
  • It may be able to help keep you regular thanks to a high dietary fiber content.
  • Iceberg lettuce contains minerals such as magnesium (also good for the digestive tract), potassium (excellent for hydration and for your heart), manganese, calcium (important for teeth and bones), and phosphorus.
  • High iron levels help your body to produce red blood cells. That makes iceberg lettuce a nice pick me up in the morning.
  • It’s also good in the evening. Iceberg lettuce helps to relax the body, especially the eyes. Some have used iceberg lettuce as a natural cure to insomnia.
  • A serving of iceberg lettuce will get you 9% of the vitamin A that you need for the day, 4% of your vitamin C needs, and provides as much as 2% of other vital vitamins like B6 and thiamine.
  • Pregnant women can benefit particularly from iceberg lettuce because it contains folate. This along with vitamin A are important in preventing eye problems which can accompany pregnancy.

So given this, don’t leave it on the shelf.  Pick one up, chop it up, add some other veggies, a few nuts or seeds, some avocado and a splosh of balsamic vinegar for a delicious and healthy, filling and fibre full Plantalicious salad!

Another idea is to use the natural shape of the leaves as serving cups – just load them with some finely chopped veggies, maybe some chinese vegetables with water chestnuts and a drop of tamari or soy sauce – YUM – Plantalicious canapes!

 

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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – H is for Hamburg Parsley

Hamburg Root Parsley is somewhat of a unique ‘off-beat vegetable’. Although this wonderful white and green vegetable is not as common as other root veggies, parsley root is extremely delicious and deserves much more recognition than it gets

Very easy to grow, both the leaves and root are edible. Parsley Root Hamburg has edible large flat, parsley-like leaves but should not be confused with common curly parsley or Italian flat leaf parsley, as neither produce edible roots.

Parsley root is most commonly eaten cooked, as a delectable addition to stews or soups, or simply as chopped or cubed as a steamed side veggie, as you would other roots such as turnips, parsnips, and carrots. In fact, it’s an extremely versatile and exciting vegetable which can be sautéed, roasted, fried, or boiled for a distinctive and savoury accompaniment for any meal.

This charming vegetable is not only a delicious ingredient, it also come with a wonderful array or health benefits.

Parsley is a very rich source of vitamin K, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, iron and folate. Apart from these, it contains a fair amount of other vitamins and minerals and is also very low in calories.

Parsley tea is a tasty tea with an acquired taste that is used as a remedy for various health problems. The herb was used in ancient Greek medicine and in Ayurveda, to treat flatulence, and dyspepsia.

 

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F is for FIBRE – Are you getting enough? Are you “going” enough???

150808-20140203Do you remember the F Plan Diet? I do. The book by British author Audrey Eyton became a huge best seller. Basically the diet suggested restricting calories whilst eating large amounts of fibre. It was also known by another “F” due to the Flatulence it caused! 

It’s almost 35 years since the F Plan hit the shelves and fibre is no longer the hot topic, it once was. Until a recent study that found that heart attack survivors were more likely to be alive. 9 years later if they had a high fibre intake. 
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The Harvard School of Public Health team analysed data from two large US studies involving more than 4,000 men and women who had survived a first heart attack and had provided information about their usual diet via questionnaires.

Interesting, huh? 

That got me thinking about how much dietary fibre most people eat. With my wholefood, plant-based diet I routinely consume more than the experts from US recommendation of 38g. In the UK the average consumption is 14g against a suggested intake of 18g. 

Fibre really does keep everything “moving” through your system. Fibre comes in two types – soluble and insoluble. Soluble slows the digestion and cause gasses. Insoluble fibre is what promotes “stool regularity”. Ok – sorry to talk about poo, but come on, be honest, do you go with ease and as regularly as you’d like? 

Fibre also makes you feel full. 

Should you worry about your fibre intake? Judging by what I see in some shopping baskets, possibly. If you eat a predominately plant based diet, you should have no need to be concerned about your fibre intake. 
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If you are eating whole grains, peas, beans, legumes plus plenty of vegetables and fruit, you should have no worries about your fibre intake. 

How can you tell if you are getting enough? For me, it’s the regularity with which I go. 

What’s your fibre intake like? 
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There are no “Silver Bullets” – It’s progress not perfection and dealing with the frustrations.

Here is a video blog entry about my experience and recent “low point” after 12 months of following a plant-based diet.

 

 

Please share your experiences by adding some comments or by joining the community.

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“That is not what I ordered” – Getting Plant-Based food in restaurants

I’ve been meaning to write this article for quite some time.
The longer I leave it, the more information and more disappointment, I have to share. It is not difficult, I do not eat meat, fish, or dairy.  in other words anything that has a face or mother. When I eat out, which I do quite often, I make this perfectly clear and ask very politely for either something on the menu that suits my dietary choices or for a small modification to a dish in order that it works me.

Increasingly, I found that this seems to be too much to ask in many situations. I don’t know why, but certain organisations seem to make very heavy weather of providing me with the food that I’m looking for. Here’s some recent examples:

ITSU (http://www.itsu.com/) -the well-known food chain in the UK. It promotes itself using the tagline “eat beautiful” with pictures of lithe half naked bodies and also through their sponsorship of England Beach volleyball tour 2014-2017. Despite this, they seem unable to provide clear training to their staff and clear labelling on a number of their products. Mr G and I have bought this to their attention and to be fair they are doing something about it. However, be really careful as the miso soup that is used in some of the noodle pots has fish in it, so be sure to ask a vegetable miso.  There is even fish seasoning in their rice sidedish. This is a bit disappointing for a company with the tagline eat beautiful!
Some time ago, I suggested that they change the rice used in the hip and healthy salad to brown rice rather than using white rice. I was told, at the time, that they would use the existing supply of rice and then look to replace it with brown rice. I think that was about 2 years ago.  When I bought one of the salads last week, it still contained white rice. It does seem as if my suggestion had fallen on deaf ears.
The next company that seems to ignore my requests is EAT http://www.eat.co.uk/index.php). Again it’s a chain, and provides some really appealing products to its customers. Eat’s tagline is “the real food company”. So it may be, but what I want is the food as promised on the pot. I was at Paddington station some weeks ago, when I ordered one of their vegetarian dumpling and noodle pots. Imagine my surprise and disgust,  when eating the 1st dumpling, I discovered that rather than the tofu that I’ve been expecting, that it was actually chicken. I went back to the counter and reported this and was greeted with a mixture of derision and incredulity. It was implied that I must be wrong and that the contents must be vegetarian. I explained that I have very good taste buds and I can tell the difference between tofu and chicken. After some remonstrations, I was eventually assured that the offending pot would be sent back to head office for analysis, and the other pots would be removed from sale and that I would be hearing from them.
I did hear from them, however in the letter to me, I was basically called a liar. The company outlined its totally infallible processes to ensure that it was quite impossible for me to have eaten a chicken dumpling when I purchased a tofu/vegetarian one. I obviously must be an idiot and have no sense of taste whatsoever. I persisted in following this up, only to be told that the offending item had been destroyed, (rather conveniently), rather than being sent back to head office for analysis, as I had been promised. This dialogue took place over the last 3 to 4 months. All I wanted, was an apology, and an admission that they are fallible and the mistakes can happen. This seemed all too difficult for the “real food company” who are obviously infallible and frankly think their customers are idiots, liars, or both, as in my case. After several exchanges of emails, I did get a rather tepid apology although it came in a letter that was headed “without prejudice” as they were obviously concerned that I was planning to sue for some kind of compensation.
I can understand chain organisations such as itsu and Eat, who produce food in vast quantities for their outlets potentially making mistakes.  What astounded me was to visit one of my favourite Indian restaurants in London and to order a vegetable masala only to discover that what been cooked and served was (you’ve guessed it…) a chicken dish. I find this really irritating that people don’t bother to check thoroughly what has been ordered. Fortunately, I don’t have some kind of terrible allergy to meat that would result in anaphylactic shock.  Regardless, the same care should be taken when taking an order from somebody who is vegetarian or vegan, as it would if they were allergic to nuts or gluten, which can have very serious implications indeed.
It’s not just getting the order wrong or making mistake with the food sometimes, as I found out a week ago, you can order something that you think is going to be healthy and suitable only to be disappointed by what is put in front of you.  I was at a restaurant with some colleagues in Swindon – The Weighbridge Brewhouse, (http://www.weighbridgebrewhouse.co.uk/). It’s place I’ve been too many times before and have always really enjoyed the ambience and the food. I ordered a vegetarian dish from the menu and asked that the goats cheese that was an ingredient listed should be removed. I was really looking forward to a beautiful medley of sauteed mushrooms and slices of Jerusalem artichoke with a plum tomato sauce. Imagine my disappointment to be faced with a plate that was swimming in approximately a quarter of an inch of fat, mushrooms that had absolutely no flavour and a sauce that had split so badly and resembled a masala sauce rather than anything to do with the tomato and again, very high in fat. Whilst I appreciate that I hadn’t asked for “no fat” the ingredients didn’t list “half a pound of butter and a cup of olive oil” as two of the ingredients, it simply said that the vegetables would be sauteed. I ate some of the dish, as I was hungry and rather than make a fuss at the time, as I was with some colleagues and rather pressed for time, I called and gave my feedback in the evening.  It was cordially received, but no one bothered to take my email or phone number to follow up which seemed to indicate to me that they did not really give a damn. That was a shame and bad staff training as I am loathed to go back to somewhere that doesn’t really care about it’s customers.
It massively disappoints me that organisations such as those listed above cannot simply provide food for all of their diners as requested.
What’s been your experience? Please feel free to sharing comments on the community.
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The A-Z of Plantalicious Ingredients – G is for Garlic

 

As a child, I could eat onions of any kind.  At family events, I’d be the child eating the very hot crunchy pickled onions.  My father would steep raw onions in vinegar for us to have with salads on Sunday evenings.  I loved them.  In terms of garlic, I’d not tasted fresh garlic at home.  My Mum had a small plastic garlic clove with garlic salt in it.  I can remember being invited to dinner with my newly married brother and my sister-in-law where I tasted “real” garlic for the fist time at the age of 12.  OMG – I loved it, it was onion but to the max!

 

As I grew up I started to understand why it should be a staple part of my cooking.  Mainly used as a flavour enhancer, garlic also has other uses as well.

 

Not that many people know that garlic is actually native to the Central Asia, and it has been used quite a lot by the ancient Egyptians as well, for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Nowadays, we have 7 different types of garlic in Europe, and those are the Ajo Morado de las Pedroñeras, Aglio Rosso di Nubia , Ail rose de Lautre, Ail de la Drôme, Aglio Bianco Polesano, Aglio di Voghiera and Ail blanc de Lomagne.

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Garlic can be cultivated all the year in mild climates all over the world, and this is especially true across Europe. Although garlic is not typically consumed in large amounts, it can provide your body  with lots of nutrients.

 

Garlic is a triple-whammy: it’s antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. Garlic is one food that we all should be eating every day.

Researchers have found that allicin, a chemical found in garlic that gives it its flavour, could be used to fight cancer. It appears that the natural chemical reaction that forms allicin, which occurs when the garlic is eaten or smashed, may penetrate and kill tumour cells.

Several studies suggest that garlic has many beneficial effects on the heart. Garlic may:

  • Lower total cholesterol
  • Lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Help keep blood thin, reducing the risk of blood clots and stroke
  • Lower elevated serum levels of homocysteine, according to preliminary studies

Garlic also works like an antibiotic against bacteria, virus, and protozoa in the body, and unlike with antibiotics, no resistance can be built up so it is an absolutely safe product to use.

Garlic can have a powerful antioxidant effect in the body, which means it helps to protect against damaging free radicals.

Garlic’s anti-fungal properties are excellent for reducing fungal infections, such as yeast infections.

People claim that people who eat garlic tend to get fewer bites from insects like ticks, according to research. It also likely applies to mosquitoes as well.  I’m not sure about that as I still seem to be seen as a healthy snack to any passing mosquito.

One problem with garlic, of course, is the smell, but if you have a good digestion that should not be a problem.  You can also chew a little parsley to reduce the smell.  Garlic is a herb, so if you do not like it or it makes you feel sick, this is your body’s way of telling you that you should avoid it.

Garlic will also improve your iron metabolism, thanks to the diallyl sulfides which help in the production of the ferroportin protein. It’s also a good source of selenium, because it gathers selenium from the soil while growing.

The largest garlic benefits are surely coming in the form of blood cell and blood vessel protection from various types of stress. What’s more, it also prevents the formation of clots inside blood vessels, something that is nothing short of amazing.

Alongside these wonderful benefits, garlic also includes numerous vitamins such as C or B6. It also helps your body integrate them quickly in the blood stream, making it more powerful and resistant to diseases as well.

The garlic we use every day in our meals doesn’t include that much carbohydrates. Instead, it’s full of inulin, a fiber that keeps the bacteria population in your intestines balanced, while also allowing your body to absorb more calcium.

  • Garlic is low in fat, and it has no cholesterol
  • It contains various elements that help your body absorb calcium, while also increasing your overall immunity
  • It’s rich in vitamins and minerals
  • It’s one of the few ingredients of a meal that give a wonderful flavour, and it also has a great effect on your overall health as well!

How much garlic do you eat?  What is your favourite way of eating it?

Quick tip – Peel a lot of garlic and freeze the cloves, you can purée them and add salt and oil (if you use it) or brine.

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Plant-based eating – Does it improve athletic performance?

Ok. So I am a sample of 1, but if my experiences are anything to go by, the answer is yes.

Yes – My athletic performance and recovery are both massively improved on a plant- based diet.

Ok – So I am not known for my athletic prowess, BUT….I have found that I do not ache after Personal Training Sessions.  My muscles recover quickly so I can train the next day.  Not bad for a (still) flabby 50 something.  My performance at my training sessions is stellar compared to what it was years ago.  Today i did 3 sets of 32kg bicep curls, I’d never have done that years ago.  I can work out so much better that before, training for longer and lifting heavier weights.

So, a sample of 1 – and not the most shining example of health and fitness yet, as I am still on my journey to improve my health.  So I asked others.  Here are a sample of what I had back as replies:

  • “Personally, I recover much faster. Most of our community will tell you the same. Plants are nurturing foods. :)” @VegRunChat
  • “for me that was the first benefit I noticed after becoming plant based, first of many” and “not a scientist but I think that a lot of plants are anti inflammatory as well as vitamin e aids in muscle recovery” @Bry_nFlynn 
  • “I find I recover faster which allows me to go longer & faster.. & lift heavier!” and “digesting massive amounts of animal protein takes days while the body quickly breaks down plants & absorbs their nutrients” @MeaganDunnCole

So then I started digging and found lots and lots of articles on how plant-based eating improves athletic performance.  One of the best, I have re-produced below.

This was written by @VegRunChat and the original article can be found here: http://vegrunchat.com/blog/5-benefits-of-running-plant-based/

Its a great site with lots of great info – check it out – http://vegrunchat.com/ but not before you read the article….

I went meat free about 3 weeks ago. I already notice that I have more energy, stamina, and I recover faster.” @Futurisa

I can run longer and faster with less fatigue since switching to a plant based diet.” @IRanWithRobert

These are a just a couple of the tweets making their way onto Twitter from plant-based runners who claim that a meat-free diet has remarkably improved their athletic performance.  It’s no surprise that, with books like Eat & Run, Finding Ultra, and the newly released No Meat Athleterunners have jumped on board a plant-based diet.  But what are the real benefits?  Is it all a bunch of hype?  Here are five ways that a plant-based diet can help boost your running career:

Less weight to carry – Eating a diet that excludes meat, eggs, cheese, and dairy will not only shed pounds, but keep the weight off.  Add running to the equation and you’ll have a body that’s perfectly sculpted, ready for any athletic challenge.  Many vegan runners (including Scott Jurek) claim that a plant-based diet has allowed them to become faster and use far less energy due to their decreased weight.  This is especially beneficial to those who run marathon (or greater) distances, as they can make better use of their energy stores.

Perfect Proteins – A plant-based diet provides runners with all of the nutrients that the body requires. Yes, even protein.  In fact, plants contain some of the most complete proteins around.  A complete protein contains each of the nine essential amino acids which we cannot live without (Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine).  Take hemp hearts and flax seeds for example; they contain all of the essential amino acid chains and contain 20 and 31 grams of protein per serving, respectively.  Furthermore, plant-based foods don’t contain artery-clogging saturated fats or cholesterol like animal-based sources of protein.

Increased bone density – Although the meat and dairy industry would love for us to believe that the secret to strong bones is milk, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, milk contains up to 300mg of calcium per cup.  But what the nutrition label doesn’t tell you is that our bodies hardly absorb this calcium, or make good use of it.  Milk (like all animal proteins) acidifies our bodies PH level which triggers a natural counter-reaction.  In an attempt to correct matters, our bodies pull calcium (which is a natural acid neutralizing element) from our bones.  The excreted calcium then leaves the body through urine, leaving us with a calcium deficiency.  On the other hand, plant foods with high levels of calcium (collards, kale and sweet potatoes) will boost bone health without affecting the body’s PH.

Energy Surge – Many runners claim that after switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet, their energy levels are restored to a level they haven’t experienced since childhood.  But why is this?  Simply put, plant-based foods contain all of the essential vitamins and nutrients we need to perform at our best.  Moreover, plant-based eaters appear to be more consciousness about other ingredients in their food.  Animal-free eaters typically omit foods that contain preservatives, additives, sweeteners, and other artificial ingredients.  Removing these ingredients from your diet enables your body to make the best use of your food.  Without these foreign ingredients, your body can process and digest foods easier, allowing for more energy to be used for better things – like running!

Faster Recovery – Plants are often referred to as nourishing foods.  This is because they do just that; nourish our bodies, replenishing lost vitamins and nutrients.  Most running pains which occur in the hips and joints are due to inflammation – the body’s normal protective response to an injury or infection.  But many plant foods contain anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate this pain and reduce inflammation.  So put that Aleve and Tylenol aside.  Use walnuts, garlic, turmeric, or fresh olives the next time you experience joint discomfort.  You will be back to running before you know it!

Are you still concerned about making the switch to a plant-based diet?  Worried it could impede your running?  You don’t have to make a full commitment to eating plants and go all-in at first.  Start out by making a few changes, and see how you feel.  You may be surprised to find that removing just meat and milk from your meals will promote faster recover and energy.  If you would like more information, I invite you to join us for#VegRunChat on Twitter Sunday nights at 9pm EST.  During the hour-long chat we discuss plant-based foods and how they relate to running performance.  You will find that it is extremely educational and fun.  We even give away prizes!

Have you ever considered going plant-based or vegetarian?  What has kept you from giving it a try?

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